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Posts Tagged ‘speech’

Our speech reveals who we really are. It shows what is in our heart:

Matthew 12:33-35 – “Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or make the tree bad, and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good things, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person brings good things out of a good treasure, and the evil person brings evil things out of an evil treasure.”

For this reason, we will be judged based upon our words:

Matthew 12:36-37 – “I tell you, on the day of judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

You can be as religious as you want, but if you don’t control your tongue it is worthless:

James 1:26 – “If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues, but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless.”

Where there is much talking, there is sin:

Proverbs 10:19 – “When words are many transgression is not lacking; but the prudent are restrained in speech.”

Proverbs 13:3 – “Those who guard their mouth preserve their lives; those who open wide their lips come to ruin.”

James 3:2/8 – “Anyone who makes no mistakes is speaking is perfect, able to keep the whole body in check with a bridle. . .. No one can tame the tongue – a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”

Those who speak one thing is secret and another in public will be exposed by God:

Luke 12:2-3 – “Nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed from the housetops.”

Psalm 101:5 – David said, “One who secretly slanders a neighbor I will destroy.”

Those who use words to tear down others will be judged:

Matthew 5:22 – “If you are angry with a brother, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool!’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.”

We should rather use our words to build up others:

Ephesians 4:29 “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.”

We must not misuse God’s name. Rather we pray that it be hallowed:

Exodus 20:7 – “You shall not make wrongful use of the name of Yahweh your God, for Yahweh will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.”

Matthew 6:9 – “Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, your name be hallowed.”

We are not to swear promises to others, but simply say yes or no when we make commitments:

Matthew 5:34-37 – “Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your word be, ‘Yes, yes’ or No, no;’ anything more than this comes from the evil one.”

James 5:12 – “Above all my beloved, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your ‘Yes’ be yes and your ‘No’ be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.”

We are not to boast or have arrogant speech:

James 4:13-16 – “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.’ Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring . . .. Indeed you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.”

We are to have pure speech with thanksgiving:

Ephesians 5:3-4 – “But fornication and impurity of any kind, or greed, must not even be mentioned among you, as is proper among saints. Entirely out of place is obscene, silly, and vulgar talk; but instead let there be thanksgiving.”

We are to speak the truth:

Ephesians 4:25 – “So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors.”

William Higgins

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The Folly of Boasting

We are looking at righteous speech and today we remind ourselves of “The Folly of Boasting.” Our text is James 4:13-17:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

All about boasting

Boasting means to brag; to call attention to yourself in a prideful way with regard to your accomplishments and abilities. It means to lift yourself up in the eyes of others through your words; to glorify yourself. Now this all assumes that what you are saying is true, otherwise we are dealing with lying. But there is also exaggeration – stretching the truth about yourself, which is a common form of boasting.

The root of it all is an overly exalted view of who we are, or pride. And just as Jesus says, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” Matthew 12:34, so boasting words come forth from a heart that is proud, lifted up, and arrogant.

We have a good example, from out text:

  • Someone who thinks he has control enough of his life to say what he will do next year or even tomorrow.
  • This leads to the boast – “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit” – v. 13.
  • James call this “arrogance” – v. 16.

Now, in our culture boasting is no big thing. Politicians regularly exaggerate and take credit for things they shouldn’t. But we say that’s just politics. Athletes as well boast as a regular part of their routine. So let me make this point as clearly as possible. Boasting is a big deal to God. In fact . . .

Boasting brings disaster

  • James 4:16-17 says that it is “evil” and a “sin.”

  • 2 Timothy 3:2 lists it as a sign of the corruption of the end times which we live in.

  • Romans 1:30 lists it as a sin that deserves death, along with things like murder and God-hating.

Now the reason I say boasting brings disaster is that God takes it upon himself to humble the proud boaster. I Corinthians 1:28-29 tells us that God brings to nothing those that are exalted, “so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”

In Matthew 23:12 Jesus says, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” These phrases are “divine passives.” So it means that God will lift up the lowly and God will bring down the boaster. This speaks to the folly or foolishness of boasting. Do you really want God as your enemy? Speaking of being humbled, lets look at . . .

The story of Nebuchadnezzar – Daniel 4

One day this powerful king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, and he boasted: ‘Look at this great city of Babylon! By my own mighty power, I have built this beautiful city as my royal residence to display my majestic splendor.’

Remember what happens? While these words were still in the king’s mouth, a voice from heaven told him that he was no longer King and he would live like a wild animal.

The story goes on, “that same hour the judgment was fulfilled, and Nebuchadnezzar was driven from human society. He ate grass like a cow, and he was drenched with the dew of heaven. He lived this way until his hair was as long as eagles’ feathers and his nails were like birds’ claws” (Daniel 4:33 NLT).

After the king came back to his senses, he had learned his lesson. He said, “The most high God’s rule is everlasting, and his kingdom is eternal. All the people of the earth are nothing compared to him. . ..” He went on to say – “I . . . praise and glorify and honor the King of heaven. All his acts are just and true, and he is able to humble the proud.”

If God can humble such a one, he can certainly humble us. So that this need not happen, lets look at . . .

The cure for boasting before God: The truth

This speaks to our overly exalted view of who we are. We need to pull off the blinders and see reality.

The truth is that we are small and powerless in this world. To those who boasted about tomorrow – James 4:14 says, “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” He goes on to tell them that they don’t even know what tomorrow will bring.

As Jesus said in Matthew 5:36, we can’t even make one hair of our head white or black (he is not talking about dying our hair here).

We should recognize how small and powerless we are, so that we say about the future – “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that” v. 15. Tomorrow is in God’s hands, not ours. Our very lives are in God’s hands.

The truth is that all we have is given to us by God. I Corinthians 4:7 says, “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?”

Are you talented? Do you have many gifts, abilities, and accomplishments? It is all only because God made you able to do these things. You can’t take credit for it. You have to give thanks to God for your gifts and accomplishments. Because without God, you are literally nothing.

The truth is that God will never owe us praise, as if we can impress God. Indeed, even if we are perfect in our behavior, we have only done what we were supposed to do in the first place!

In Luke 17:10 Jesus says, “When you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.” You don’t earn credit from God for doing what you were supposed to do in the first place.

Paul knew this. He said in 1 Corinthians 9:16, “For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!”

So, for all these reasons, we have no basis for boasting before God. But we also boast before others. And . . .

The cure for boasting before others: Love

That’s because love does not exalt itself over others. 1 Corinthians 13:4 says, “Love does not . . . boast; it is not arrogant . . .”

  • Pride leads you to lift yourself up over others – even to lift yourself up by pushing others down below you.
  • But love is not self-centered. Love leads you to lower yourself in order to lift others up to serve and to help.

If we have a problem comparing ourselves to others and then boasting, what we need is a dose of love for others in our heart.

Three rules for humble speech

1. Let your actions speak for you. In 2 Corinthians 12:6 Paul says, “I refrain from boasting, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me.”

Yes, there are times when you have to say what you do well and what you have done, like in a job interview. And we should be able to assess ourselves and know what we do well and not so well – without exaggeration.

But other than being asked, live your life and let that speak for you.
 
2. Let others praise you. Proverbs 27:2 says, “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.” You can boast about others. Paul boasts on his converts. So this is fine. But don’t boast about yourself.

3. If you must boast, boast in the Lord. This idea comes from various Old Testament references (Psalm 44:8; Psalm 34:2, Jeremiah 9:23-24). We boast in the Lord by praising him for whatever is good in our lives.

Paul talks about this in 1 Corinthians 1:31 – “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” But with regard to himself he says in 2 Corinthians 12:9 – “I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses.”  

So you speak of how the Lord is working and do so in a way that highlights your weakness and God’s strength. This turns boasting inside out, and uses your mouth for what it was made for: instead of glorifying yourself – you glorify the Lord.

William Higgins

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The Dangerous Power of Our Words

Today we begin a series on righteous speech. Scripture has a lot to say about this topic and we want to dig into some of this. We begin with a general overview of our need to tend to this issue in our lives.

James 3:5-10 says, “. . .  the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.

For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.”

Our words are powerful

We’ve all heard the saying – “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” We’ve heard this, but as we know, this just isn’t true. Our words do have power in them -often to hurt.

This is why the psalmist describes the words of his enemies as swords and arrows – Psalm 64:3 – talks about those, “who whet their tongues like swords, who aim bitter words like arrows.” But on the other side  Proverbs 15:4 says, “a gentle tongue is a tree of life.”

Our words can be weapons of destruction or they can give life to others. As Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” We can use its power to build up and bless others or we can use its power to tear down and curse. Not only is our tongue powerful…

Our words tend to be a destructive power

More often than not, they are prone to be a negative power; prone to sin. James 3 says of the tongue that it:

  • is a world of unrighteousness
  • stains the whole body
  • is set on fire by hell
  • is a restless evil
  • is full of deadly poison

That’s why Proverbs 10:19 can say “when words are many, transgression is not lacking . . ..” Words and sin just seem to go together. If you ask, “Why is this?” Its because  . . .

Our words simply reveal what is in our hearts

And given the condition of our hearts, whose default position is evil, its no wonder that we speak out evil words.

Jesus makes this point in Matthew 12:33-35 – “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.”

If the tree is evil, it will bring forth evil fruit. If the tree is good, it will bring forth good fruit. In the same way if our hearts are evil, we will bring forth evil words and if our hearts are good, we will bring forth good words. There is an intrinsic and unfailing connection between the two – our heart and our words.

When we speak out words of, slander, gossip or deception, we show the true spiritual condition of our heart – that it has hatred and bitterness against others. Our speech simply reveals what is in our hearts. And because this is so . . .

We will be judged based on our words

Jesus said, “I tell you, on the day of judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” – Matthew 12:36-37.  Can you imagine it? Every careless word you utter? You will have to give an account for each of these!

And God hears and knows everything we say. That’s what Jesus says in Luke 12:2-3 – “Nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed from the housetops.” What you have whispered, will be exposed for all to hear. What you have said in secret so that others can’t hear will be heard.

This is why speech is such a dangerous power. It is not just that it can harm others. It is dangerous to us. For when we stand before God we will have to give an account for every word we have uttered, yelled, whispered, written, emailed; each one of them!

When we understand that this is true we immediately recognize that we are in trouble before God! Beyond asking God for forgiveness, we realize that . . .

We need to act to control our words

Here are three general guidelines:

1) Don’t talk a lot. Proverbs 10:19 says, “when words are many transgression is not lacking, but the prudent are restrained in speech.” Proverbs 17:27 says, “one who spares words in knowledgeable.”

2) Be slow to speak. Proverbs 29:20 says, “Do you know someone who is hasty in speech? There is more hope for a fool than someone like that.” James 1:19 says, “let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak.” In other words, think carefully before you speak.

3) We have to guard our mouths. We must make sure that when we do speak, we speak words of righteousness. Proverbs 13:3 says, “Those who guard their mouths preserve their lives.” Peter taught, “Those who desire life and desire to see good days, let them keep their tongues from evil and their lips from speaking deceit” – I Peter 4:10.

As we go through the series – we will look at what righteous speech is, so that we can restrain ourselves within the bounds of righteousness.

William Higgins

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